Opinion: U.K. – the Bridge Between East and West? Not So Fast.

U.K.-China Toast
U.K.-China Toast

President Xi is visiting the U.K. this week.  There are pageantry … and some $60 Billion US worth of deals.  British Prime Minister has made a big commotion calling it as the “Partner of Choice” in the West for China.

I am sure the British Leadership, Cameron personally, believes that it is in the long-term interest of Britain to mend relationship with China.  But I don’t believe Britain is really a “Partner of Choice.”  It may be a “Partner of Convenience,” but I believe it still cares little for – has little respect for – China … except to make a buck.

An important thing I noticed is the difference in media coverage of the trip from Britian and China.  From China, the trip is given deference, respect, and honor.  There is a sense  – a hope – that the China and U.K. is really about to do something fundamentally different … a belief that U.K. is a “Partner of Choice” to bring the West and China closer together.  But from the Britain side, we see either no coverage … or an article here or there about closer relationship being a mistake … or the relationship is just about the bottom line.

You can see for yourself.

Here is a screenshot of Xinhua’s home page today.  Not only is Xi’s visit front and center, but in the picture/story slider area, of the 10 stories, the top 6 (1-6) are all related to the visit.  (Slide 2 | Slide 3 | Slide 4 | Slide 5 | Slide 6)

Compare that with say:

You get my gist.

Besides coverage, there is also Prince Charles’ snub of President Xi by not attending the state dinner in Xi’s honor.  Prince Charles left some bad taste with PRC with the way he handled the turnover of Hong Kong to PRC.  Prince Charles is also known as a huge Dalai Lama supporter. So the fact that he cannot bring himself to honor Xi properly and turn the page on the recent raucous history of U.K.-China relations is an additional testament that Britain is not quite ready to turn the the corner and raise the relationship.

It was nice that U.K. allowed Xi to address its parliament (an honor the U.S. could not muster for Xi in his visit last month).  It was nice that its guards even marched to orders given in Mandarin.  It was nice that U.K. was the first European power to join the AIIB (although I didn’t think China needed it as bad as Western press made it out to be).  But in the end, all the pageantry seems contrived … even strained.

There is still a way to go for U.K. to be a “Partner of Choice” for China.  Beggars (i.e. China) can’t be choosers I guess.  The West as a whole still disdains China today.  But since “a journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step,” I suppose it has to start somewhere.

I personally won’t hold my breath if the U.K. dis China very soon again.  After all, the same euphoria about cooperation exited in China in 2011, too.  And we all know what happened next.

6 thoughts on “Opinion: U.K. – the Bridge Between East and West? Not So Fast.

  1. It was Palmerston who declared that “ nations do not have permanent friends or allies, only permanent interests”.
    The Anglo-Chinese bromance is set to blossom because both parties project a mutually beneficial relationship – Britain from investments, and channeling its dormant influence through a cash-flushed & revived great power that may need a sherpa through unfamiliar global terrain.
    Hence ` choice’ or `convenience’ is a matter of semantics – the BFF union was made out of pragmatism, with `soft power’ wrappings to make everything look chocolate-y.
    Anyways, the British heartily despise everyone: the French are frogs, the Germans are krauts (or Huns, since WWI) and the southern Europeans, dagos.
    The wannabe compradres of India and Hong Kong (the Martin Lee-Joshua Wong types) are just wogs.
    So China can just shrug off the rabid British press as aging attack dogs -it’s not personal. In less than a generation, when a wealthy new class emerges in Britain (again) from the China connection – meaning that they will have direct interests to protect – that snarling tone will change.
    Anyway, not all Brits are overly fond of the Americans: a few years ago, I had lunch with an Anglo-Indian friend who works in London for a think-tank. She said that the Brits were not averse to China’s rise to square off domineering Washington.
    China is offering Britain a peaceful path to prosperity, rather than the American way of war and destruction of defenseless countries.
    Forget Charles – he just wants to be a sanitary pad for Camilla, and prolly needs to consult with Dalai Lama on this re-incarnation path in his next lifetime. LOL!
    Brenda will not abdicate, god bless her, so the crown will go to William and Kate- as the dynamic, young face of Britain, in sync with the new world order.

  2. The west still behave with a sense of moral superiority when it comes to relationship with China. Not surprised at all. It is still better than utter contempt although when it comes to dirty politics, the brits cannot claim any innocence. Coincidentally Blair just admitted regrets at the Iraq invasion which have led to rise of Isis

  3. It is harder to invest in the US than the EU. China is way behind the rich countries in outbound foreign direct investment (OFDI). However, it must be done for China to keep developing.

    http://www.thechinamoneyreport.com/2015/06/27/china-to-become-worlds-biggest-overseas-investor-by-2020/

    “While early Chinese investments focused on energy and natural resource assets
    in developing countries, investors are increasingly looking to the US and Europe
    for fresh opportunities. Between 2000 and 2014, Chinese companies spent €46bn
    on 1,047 direct investments in the 28 EU countries, with most of the transactions
    coming in the wake of the 2008-09 global financial crisis.

    The UK is by far the biggest recipient of Chinese direct investment, with a
    cumulative total of €12.2bn over that period. Germany is second with €6.9bn and
    France third with €5.9bn. Following a drop in 2013 to €6bn, from more than €7bn
    each year in 2011 and 2012, Chinese investment in Europe came surging back in
    2014, hitting a record high of €14bn for the whole year.

    Europe’s energy, automotive, food and real estate sectors attracted the most Chinese
    money. Despite the recent sharp rise and heady predictions for Chinese outbound
    investment in the future, the country is still playing catch-up.

    While China is the world’s biggest trader of goods, its share of global financial
    cross-border assets and liabilities barely reached 3.4 per cent by 2011.

    Today, its stock of OFDI as a proportion of GDP stands at just 7 per cent, compared
    to 38 per cent for the US, 20 per cent for Japan and 47 per cent for Germany.
    One issue that could stymie the rise of Chinese investment is the ongoing difficulty international companies face trying to invest in China.”

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